PAROCHIAL MISSION WOMEN.
OCTOBER loTH, 1863,
VICE-CHANCELLOR Sm WILLIAM PAGE WOOD.
Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majenty,
VICTORIA PRESS, 83a, FARRINGDON STREET,
AND 14, PRINCES STREET, HAXOYER SQUARE.
OCT. 15Tn, 1863.
PAROCHIAL MISSION WOMEN.
VICE-CHANCELLOR SIR WILLIAM PAGE WOOD.
The subject which I have undertaken to bring before the
consideration of the Meeting has ah-eady been introduced to the
notice of the Church Congress. A paper was read on the
Institution of Parochial Mission Women, by the Pev. Wellington
Furse, at the meeting of 1862, which stated the origin, consti-
tution, and aim of the society concisely yet fully, and enforced
with an eloquence which I should endeavour in vain to emulate,
the arguments in favour of its further development. I hope that
the actual work, as well as the origin of the Institution, has
become well known by the simple and deeply interesting nar-
rative published by the Hon. Mrs. Talbot, one of the Lady-
managers; copies of the second edition of which may be had
of Messrs. Hale and Poworth, Cross-street.* It would, indeed,
be sufficient to refer to that publication and to Mr. Purse's
paper, without further observation on my own part, were it not
for the recent date of the undertaking, and the increased confi-
dence in its success which has been derived from the experience
* Rivingtons, Waterloo Place, London.
of another year. It has now acquired a recognised position as
an auxiliary in parochial work, by the place assigned to it in the
Bishop of London's great scheme for supplying the spiritual
wants of the metropolis and its suburbs. Many here present
must recollect the appearance of a little work called " The
Missing Link," under which quaint title a narrative was given
of the ready access obtained to the homes and hearts of the poor,
by the employment of women selected from their own rank of
life. These agents were called Bible-women, and the history
of their work, in stimulating the indolent to exertion, in reclaim-
ino- the vicious, in teaching by example the advantages of a
clean, well-ordered home, and, yet more, in leading those whom
they visited to a longing after better things, to a desire to become
acquainted with the Word of Life, could not fail to interest
every reader. The chain of Christian brotherhood seemed to
have snapped like the electric cable in some of its submerged
links. The missing link was to be found and riveted.
It is, however, obvious to all who have a firm faith in the
Divine mission of the Church, that the permanence and ultimate
success of any scheme for diffusing a knowledge of Christian
truth must depend mainly on its being made to harmonise with
the agencies already engaged in carrying on the Church's work.
It is well if we have been shown a link that will bind the rich
to their poorest brethren, but the whole chain must be brought
home and secured to the firm ground, the foundation of the
Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief
corner-stone. This was felt by one who had perused the work.
The thoughts that God put into her heart were communicated
to the Incumbent of a London district. The seed had fallen in
good ground, and bore fruit. In the early part of 1860, four
ladies, members of our Church, endeavoured to avail themselves
of the agency of Mission-women, by means of a society, of which
they became the managers. The society was constituted on the
following principles : —
1. That the Mission should be part of and be subordinate to
the Parochial System of our Church.
2. That the Mission-woman (being of course a member of
the Church of England) should be selected by the Incumbent of
the parish from amongst the poor ; and that her work should be
superintended not only by the Incumbent, but by a lady of
education, to be also named by him.
3. That no direct relief in the shape of alms should be given,
but that the Mission should be the extension of Christian civili-
sation (the only true civilisation) among the poor — that they
should be instructed and encouraged in habits of Christian love
and courtesy, in self-discipline, and self-support.
I will very briefly touch upon each of the above heads.
First, as forming part of the parochial system, a Mission is
established only upon the application of the Incumbent. He
selects the Mission-woman and the Lady Superintendent. The
Mission-woman is not a Scripture reader, nor a teacher of reli-
gious doctrines, but through her agency, and that of the Lady
Superintendent, the pastor is informed of the spiritual neces-
sities of all who are brought within the sphere of their influ-
ence. They are instructed to refer to him alone in all such
cases. The arrangement may be terminated by a month's
notice on either side, viz., by the Lady-managers of the society,
or by the Incumbent ; so that the possibility of collision with
the Incumbent, or interference with his office, is effectually
Secondly, the Mission-woman is taken from the ranks of the
poor. I cannot here do better than repeat Mr. Furse's citation
from Mr. Talbot's work : " She goes among them a living
witness that one of themselves may be something better and
happier than they are."
The object in view would be frustrated if the Mission-woman
were raised by the society above her original position. The
salary, therefore, is purposely kept very low, from 8s. to 14s. a
week, according to the circumstances of the work, and the time
that it requires. She is one whose habits of cleanliness,
economy, order, and sincere piety are attainable, through God's
blessing, by all of her own class. Of this she is to be the living
witness, subduing them to her own nature through the sym-
pathy of affection, not by any exhibition of herself as a model or
a teacher. Her work is done quietly and simply, often as a
portion of her daily duties. No attempt has been made to define
it. She enters one house, and finds its inmates prostrate with
fever, in the midst of dirt and squalor. She will clean the room,
set things to rights, watch, if necessary, through the night. In
another place she encounters drunkenness, and all its miserable
consequences ; the clothes, the furniture pawned, even down to
the bed and bed-clothing. She will take a favourable moment
for letting the wretched inmates know with how little self-denial
they may be raised from such misery to comfort. To re-kindle
the feeling of hope, which becomes all but quenched in the
miseries of squalid poverty, is her constant aim. In other cases
she will suggest the sending of children, hitherto wholly
neglected, to school. In all, she will strive to bring those whom
she visits to their pastor, and through him to the great Shepherd
of the flock. She brings specially before his notice those little
ones whom their Saviour is ever ready to embrace ; and the
testimony of the clergy as to the increased number of infants
brought to them for Holy Baptism, through the agency of the
Mission-woman, is uniform and striking.
Those who have had any experience of the poor will know how
much more effective such an agency must be than any visits,
however kindly meant or kindly conducted, by ladies or gentle-
men, or even by the Clergy themselves. With reference to the
social character of the degraded, the Clergyman must be ignorant
of much that is known to the Mission-woman, who has had her-
self to struggle with poverty. His friendly remonstrances, if
extended beyond spiritual matters, are frequently rejected as
interference. I have heard of the poor saying, with regard to
the visits of an exemplary clergyman, that it seemed as if the
policeman were looking them up. Neither can the clergyman's
wife, or any lady, thoroughly master all the besetting tempta-
tions of the poor to improvidence and consequent disorder.
There is always a risk, also, when the visits of the wealthy are
expected or frequent, of a false or hypocritical display either of
poverty or good order, as may be thought most expedient, at the
time of the visit. The Mission-woman drops in as a neighbour
and a friend.
Mr. Furse has referred in heart-stirring language to a higher
point — the blessing to the Mission-women themselves in having
such an opening given them to a devoted life. I will only,
therefore, state the fact that in many cases the duty has been
accepted with thankfulness by widows, anxious to serve their
Heavenly Master, as He was served of old by those women who
followed His steps on earth. In others, those who have them-
selves home duties to perform, have nevertheless found or made
time for executing the work of the mission.
Thirdly. The third principle, namely, abstinence from alms-
giving, forms a special mark of distinction between the work
conducted by the Parochial Mission Women's Society and that
carried on by district visiting. I purposely abstain from con-
trasting any one branch of parochial work with another. Dis-
trict visiting may be all-important with reference to many
objects of its own, but the Mission-woman's efforts would be at
once paralysed if there were any mistake as to the object of her
visits, any expectation of her assisting the poor to do that which
we all, both rich and poor, are alike too ready to do, namely,
shift their burthens upon the shoulders of others. She is to
teach them how they can best diminish the burthen by removing
all the self-imposed weights of sensuality or folly ; how they can
most aptly economise and apply such strength as they possess ;
and lastly, with the minister's help, how they can most cheerfully
bear that which must ever remain to be borne, when all is done,
as being the duty assigned by no hard taskmaster, but by One
who said of old by His prophet, " As thy days so shall thy
Having thus stated the objects and principles of the society, j
will now shortly speak of its constitution and general toorking,
and then of its present position.
The Lady-managers * (now five in number) have the general
control of the undertaking and its funds. These funds are,
however, carried to the Treasurer's account at the bank. To the
Lady-managers applications are made by the Clergyman for the
establishment of a Mission in his parish.
The Clergyman then appoints a Mission-woman and a Lady
Superintendent, to be approved of by the Managers. It is not
thought desirable, for many reasons which I need not enter into,
that the clergyman's wife should act as lady superintendent. I
have spoken of 07ie Mission-woman — in some cases, if the funds
will permit, two have been appointed, and of course any number
may be so employed. A room is provided (if there be not
already a school-room or some other suitable place) for weekly
meetings of women who have been visited by the Mission- women,
as they may be able to attend.
The Managers supply the Lady Superintendent with funds for
the purchase of materials for clothing and bedding. These are
purchased at wholesale prices, to be again distributed at cost
price, to women willing to buy and work them up. The mate-
rials are kept at the Mission rooms, where the weekly meeting is
held, and the poor women attend with the Mission-woman and
work them up. They are not allowed to remove any materials
to their own home till the whole cost price is paid ; but, if they
* The Hon. Mrs. J. C. Talbot ; The Lady Laura Palmer ; The Hon.
Cecily Stuart Wortley (Hon. Sec.) ; Lady Wood ; Miss Laura Oldfield
(Hon. Sec.) Any further information may be obtained fi-om the Treasurer,
The Hon. W. C. Spring Rice, 165, New Bond Street, W.
like, may pay for and remove them at once, instead of working
on them at the meeting's.
The Lady Superintendent presides at the meetings, and con-
verses with and reads to the women whilst they are at work.
The Clergyman attends before the close of the meeting, and the
women are dismissed with prayer and his blessing, The reading
by the Lady Superintendent is not necessarily of a religious cha-
racter, but varies according to the wishes of the clergyman.
The Mission-woman in her visits collects the payments for
clothing and bedding, and also for Bibles and Prayer books,
which are provided at the cost price of the Society for the Pro-
motion of Christian Knowledge.
Accounts are made out weekly, according to very minute and
accurate printed forms, of all payments made by the poor, and
are transmitted regularly by the Lady Superintendent to the Lady-
managers. The expense of a Mission is between £30 and £40.
In some instances the whole or one-half has been supplied by
the liberality of an individual. The Incumbent is expected to
raise something towards the expense, though this is not made a
condition of the establishment of the Mission when the parish is
a very poor one.
These weekly returns also contain a return one of the number of
visits paid daily by the Mission-women, and the numbers present
at the weekly meetings, in order that the Managers may be able
to form some judgment of the efficiency of the Mission. From
100 to 150 visits can be made in the week, though this number
is sometimes exceeded. The Lady-managers from time to time,
and without any previous notice, themselves visit the work
Once or twice a year a parochial tea party is given to the
women who attend the weekly meetings, at which the Lady
Superintendent and one or more of the Lady-managers attend.
A similar meeting takes place of the whole body of Mission-
There are occasional meetings also of the Lady-managers
with the Lady Superintendents of all the Missions, and with such
of the clergy as may be able to attend.
These various meetings tend materially to the cheerful and
harmonious working of the whole scheme. It is, indeed, essen-
tial to its distinctive Christian character that the Mission-woman
herself should be from time to time refreshed in spirit, and
upheld in her work as a labour of love. The danger against
which it is perhaps most necessary to guard her, is that of a too
business-like routine discharge of secular duty. She may, her-
self, sink into a mere collector of pence, or maid-of-all-work, and
cease to labour as a loving sister of mercy. The intercourse
with the Lady Superintendent and the Clergyman should (as it is
believed it does) counteract this tendency.
This is the simple machinery of the society, to which, however,
has been made, since Mr. Furse's paper was read, one important
addition, viz., a Committee of Reference, consisting of eight gen-
tlemen, whose names would inspire confidence in any assembly
of Churchmen. They are to meet annually for the purpose of
examining and auditing all the accounts. At such meetings a
statement of the whole working of the society is laid before them
by the Lady-managers ; and their suggestions and advice are
asked as to any fresh regulations for giving steadiness and
stability to the work.
The Lady-managers have also the privilege of convoking a
meeting of this committee, if necessary, owing to any difficulty
or embarrassment in the work. Two of the Committee of
Reference act specially as auditors, and audit the whole accounts
yearly. I cannot here insist too strongly on Ihe advantage of
this business element in the transactions of the society. Many
useful works in the Church of Christ have been greatly hindered
by carelessness in finance. We have the great example of St.
Paul, who would not even send Titus alone with pecuniary aid
to the Corinthians : " Considering this, that no one should blame
us in the abundance which is administered by us, providing for
things, honest not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the
sight of man." 2 Cor. viii. 20.
It is intended to add, when required, trained Nurses to the
Mission establishment. It has been found that instruction in
nursing is deeply needed. The nurse will be a person trained
under the superintendence of Miss Jones, at King's College
Hospital, for a year, or six months at least, and her duty will be
not merely to nurse but to teach the best method of nursing.
She, of course, will be placed under the same control as the
Such is the constitution and working of the society, and now
one word only on its present position.
When Mr. Furse read his paper last year, the society had
established 28 Missions. In the report for June in the present
year, they are mentioned by name, and amount to 46. They now
amount to 51,* and fresh applications are continually received.
The missions are principally in the metropolis ^and its neigh-
bourhood, but others have also been established at Plymouth,!
Reading, Plumstead, and Chatham. The society has received
the express sanction of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury,
the Bishop of London, and Bishop of "Winchester, in whose
dioceses principally the work is carried on. The Bishop of
London himself preached the first sermon, when a collection was
made in support of the institution, and has placed the " Parochial
Mission Women " on the list of Christian works which he is
desirous of carrying into effect by means of the large fund pro-
posed to be raised in his diocese.
These details, few as they are, will show you that the work is
appreciated by the clergy and is in full vigour. During the year
* Increased since this paper was read to 71. April, 1864.
t An Exeter Diocesan Crancb now exists under the management of Lady
Louisa Fortescue and Mrs. Pole Carew, in connexion with the Pai'ent Society,
"wliicli supports several IMissions in Plymouth.
to which the last report extends, the 46 Missions received from
the poor £1,217 12s. ^d. in payment for clothing, bedding,
Bibles, and Prayer-books. Of this sum, sometimes £1 a-week
has been received in a single Mission in copper, 6s. or 8s. being
in farthings ; these payments increase as the poor rise in position.
These figures alone serve to show that the work is appreciated
by the poor, and in no case have these contributions caused any
diminution of the deposits in provident funds, or other saving
deposits, which have, in many instances, as might be expected,
I have copies of the last Report, which I shall be happy to
distribute ; and reference may be made to any of the clergy
therein named, as to the working of the mission in his parish.
Instances could be given, if time would allow it, which might
interest those present, of the effects of the work as far as the
present short experience has developed them. Mrs. Talbot's
excellent book contains many such details. As an example of
its diifusive, leavening character, I may mention the case of a
poor woman who was lately heard saying to another at one of
the weekly meetings, " I am sure I hope you will find this
answer to you as it has to me : why, with the bits of furniture
I have bought by degrees, I can now hire a room for 2s. 6d. a
week instead of 4s. 6d. a week." The woman addressed had but
just joined the meeting, and was in a most squalid state of
poverty. Not unfrequently the women have required instruc-
tion in the first use of the needle. It has been even noticed
that a wonderful change takes place not only in the dress but in
the very countenance of the poor women attending the meetings.
The sullen, depressed, all but desponding scowl, is sure to
brighten by degrees into the cheerful look of a mind more ele-
vated and at ease. It may be said women only are dealt with,
but how does this affect the men ? Those who know the influence
on the working man's character for good or evil of the state of
his house and household — of a tidy, quiet, well ordered, well
governed home, or of one that is the reverse, will not ask any
question on that point.
The Congress has now before it a statement of the objects,
constitution, and progress of the Parochial Mission Women's
Society. I may add that the central board of Lady-managers
is ready to receive subscriptions either for the general work or
for specified missions, and ready also to afford assistance by its
advice and experience to all who may be desirous of undertaking
a similar work.
If the principle be in itself good, the metliod of working has
the advantage of great simplicity. By fitting in to parochial
work it is capable of adaptation to the whole of our population.
Though conceived originally as infusing the leaven of Christi-
anity Into the dense masses of populous towns as yet scarcely
touched by its influence, yet the help of the Mission-women In
teaching habits of domestic order, cleanliness, and economy,
would be everywhere of great service. There are many points
also in which the Mission-women might be available to clergymen,
especially to the younger clergy intrusted with the charge of
populous rural districts, by keeping them well Informed of the
various habits and special wants, spiritual as well as temporal,
of the poorer members of their flock.
Take a slng-le illustration : the almost incredible amount of
low and debasing superstitions imbedded In the minds of the
rural population as firmly as they were in the middle ages.
Some lamentable instances of this have lately occurred ; such as
the drowning, not a month ago, in Essex, of a wretched deaf and
dumb foreigner, eighty-six years of age, as a wizard. In the
presence of seventy or eighty villagers, none of whom lifted arm
or even voice to save him.
But as the institution of Parochial Mission-women ^^s in to the
existing working of our parishes, so, also. It supersedes nothing.
It fills permanently a gap, which has hitherto been only bridged
over, it may be, from time to time, on pressing emergency, in
this or that parish, by the personal benevolence of iudividuala
possessing a rare capacity for attracting sympathy and confidence.
I cannot, indeed, be supposed to overlook the remarkable
manner in which the tie of Christian brotherhood must have been
strengthened, during the course of the last eventful year in the
great manufacturing districts, in the very heart of which we are
assembled. I see around me those whose ready help and bro-
therly and sisterly compassion must have won their way to the
hearts of the noble suffering classes of Lancashire. Those
helpers, too, must have been greatly touched, yes, and must
have been themselves ennobled and purified, by witnessing the
manner in which a trial unexampled in our time, if not in history,
has been borne ; with what meek and manly resignation to the
But I shall have failed to convey adequately the scope of the
Mission-woman's work, if I have not made it appear that her
labour of love is not confined, nor even pi'incipally directed, to
ministrations among the honest, hard-working, industrious
classes. Its object is rather to stir up the indolent and apathetic,
to open the eyes of the improvident, to check the downward path
of the sensual, to cheer the desponding, by pointing out to them
not merely the Mission-woman's own example, but the example
of others amongst whom she has laboured, and thus convincing
all that in this life, and as regards things temporal, there is no
impassable gulph between happiness and misery. Surely this
will lighten the labour of him, who, armed with a higher com-
mission, shall be called upon to warn them of the awful moment
when evil and misery will be eternally separated from goodness
and bliss, and to exhort them, even at the eleventh hour, to
become fellow-labourers in his Master's vineyard.
I believe the work has commended itself to our Bishops, our
Clergy, and to the lay-supporters of the society, no less than to
our poorer brethren, by its simplicity and its appropriateness.
In a beautiful sermon of one who has been lately added to the
distinguished Clergy of the North, I find a passage particularly
applicable to this labour of love ; — " The condition of success in
heavenly things is still, as it has ever been, not ingenuity, but
devotion ; not hurry, but patience ; not self-confidence or pre-
sumption, but earnest prayer and invincible faith." — Vaughan's
Lessons of Life and Godliness, Sermon XIIT.
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